Thursday, August 16, 2018

Indiana U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

82 Days Until Election Day

Indiana U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

It is said to be harder to poll in Indiana than any other state, as a state law prevents "robocalls" and thus it might be tougher to truly gage what is going on in the Hoosier State and if Republicans can make a pickup. There is no reason to believe the contest should be anything but close, but Indiana has been moving more Republican in recent years, as demonstrated by the results in 2016. Donald Trump may be a draw to bring a lot of Democrats to the polls, but in a state like Indiana, an energized Republican base, in a nationalized election could cut the other way and help the GOP.

First term Democrat Joe Donnelly is somewhat of a "fluke Senator", after his surprising but luckly 2012 victory. A socially moderate politician, from a working-class Catholic background, he had some setbacks in his early years of trying to win office. His first attempt to fun for federal office was a losing Congressional campaign in 2004. A favorable midterm in 2006 though saw him defeat an incumbent Republican to get elected to Congress and he served three terms. In 2012, redistricting made it appear likely that Donnelly would face an uphill reelection battle. He seemed willing to settle to add a U.S. Senate nomination to his resume, as the party's candidate against longtime incumbent Richard Lugar. Nobody expected Lugar could lose to a Democrat, but as time passed, the chances increased that he would face a serious Republican primary challenge. Democrats got a huge break when Lugar was defeated in the GOP primary by conservative State Treasurer Richard Mourdock .The chance for Donnelly to win a Senate seat suddenly increased but the demographics of the state still favored the Republican.

That changed even more suddenly when in an October debate, Mourdock made comments to bolster his Pro-Life without an exception for rape position by saying that a pregnancy from a rape was something that "God intended." Donnelly was nominally Pro-Life on the abortion issue but stood to benefit from what many thought was a quite sensitive comment from his opponent. On Election Day, Donnelly won 50-44, with the rest going to a Libertarian. If not for the rape comments, Donnelly would almost certainly not have won the Senate seat.

During his time in the Senate, Donnelly has had to walk a thin line between supporting his party and advocating for his state, and at times those things have been in contrast. He has not been much of a partisan fighter rhetorically, but did cast unpopular votes such as one for Obamacare and against Republican attempts during the last two Administrations to repeal it. He was one of just three Democrats to vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and is currently being watched because a vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination will come shortly before the voters in his state pass judgment. Most expect, that Donnelly will again be among the few Democrats to vote Aye, ensuring confirmation for Donald Trump's choice, but that could greatly anger liberals in his home state.

Sensing vulnerability, Republicans looked ahead for quite some time to 2016 in an attempt to win the seat back. For a while, it looked like the GOP primary would come down to two Congressmen, who have known each other since they attended school together at relatively small Wabash College. Todd Rokita had won statewide office and served as Secretary of State before going to Congress after the 2010 election. He faced some stories though about how he was a bit of a political diva who demanded strict adherence to rules set for the staffers that were assigned to drive him. Luke Messer was elected to Congress, two years later in 2012, and did more to get along with the GOP leadership team than Rokita had and after his second term, joined their ranks. He was seen as the more electable of the two candidates against Donnelly.

A third entrant would come along though that shook up the primary race. Mike Braun was a wealthy  businessman who got elected to the Indiana House, but resigned his seat to run for the U.S. Senate. He pointed to his outsider credentials and business experience and claimed that both his opponents were politics as usual, even as they sparred amongst each other. He took to using cardboard cutouts of Rokita and Messer to show how similar they were and how he represented something different. Interestingly enough, Braun had a brother run in the Republican primary for an open Congressional seat. The other Braun lost and it is said that two brothers are not particularly close.

All candidates in the race ran on a pro-Trump message in advance of the May primary, but none more so than Rokita, who wore a red MAGA hat on the trail and in his ads and approached hero-worship of Trump. Messer was attacked by Rokita as having been a "Never Trumper" during the 2016, but Messer insisted he supported the President's agenda and suggested he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts with North Korea. These events took place before Donald Trump began endorsing primary candidates on Twitter for the most part.

As the primary approached, it looked like Braun, who seemed to avoid wearing suits, had momentum over the two bickering Congressmen. His politically unpolished style and business background seemed to appeal to the voters who liked Trump, even more than the attempts of the others to suck up. Another thing that Braun had in common with Trump, was that Braun was a Democrat for most of his life, up until 2012. He said that in his area, he had to register as a Democrat in order to have a voice in primaries, but had always been a Republican at heart.The state is tough to poll and it appeared that there were large numbers of undecided voters, but the end result was a solid victory for Braun, beating both Congressmen with 41 percent of the vote. Rokita finished ahead of Messer in the Wabash primary by a close 30-29 margin. National Republicans appeared happy that Braun won, figuring that by not serving in Congress, there was less for the Democrats to attack. Trump warmly embraced Braun politically soon after the primary at an Indiana rally.

The small amount of polling this spring and summer showed Braun leading Donnelly by a statistically insignificant margin. A poll recently released by the Republican Trafalgar Group shows Donnelly ahead of his challenger 51-39, but even many Democrats are skeptical of the survey and the results. The poll went on to test how the race would change depending how Donnelly voted on the Kavanaugh confirmation and the Democrat lost significant ground, either way. That cannot be heartening for the incumbent.

My sense is that this race is close and while the national environment would favor Democrats, it may be a different story in the Vice President's home state. Donnelly might be about as strong of a Democrat as his party could hope for in Indiana, but unlike some other incumbents from his party in red states, does not have as long of a track record of electoral success or in building his own brand. The fact is that he got elected to the Senate because of primary surprise in the other party and then a huge political gaffe late in the game by his opponent. Even the once immensely popular Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh saw how hard it was to run for the Senate in the state in 2016. He just about lost by double digits.

Donnelly will be competitive for his party and may very well win at the end, but Braun looks like a solid Republican candidate who will not be committing self-induced errors. Trump is probably political poison in many states this midterm, but national Democrats are not well-liked among Hoosiers. This is a great example of how thankful Republicans should be about this cycle's Senate map.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
5 D (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup), 
2 R (2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
28 D (23 holdovers, 3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup)
44 R (42 holdovers, 2 Tossup)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Illinois Governor- Race of the Day

83 Days Until Election Day

Illinois Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

I have not been relishing this write-up. That is due to it being a disappointing situation for me who has always been a proud citizen of the Land of Lincoln and because there is no way I will be able to remember every detail that I think it pertinent.

In many ways, Illinois has become the poster-child for government dysfunction and resident dissatisfaction. People seem to be leaving the state in high numbers and many more say they would go too, if they could. We continue to deal with the ramifications of corrupt politicians in both parties, as well as high taxes, a poor business climate, and untenable pension system. Even worse, is that in many African-American neighborhoods in Chicago, the streets as a virtual killing field as gang members kill each other and all too often innocent bystanders. Due to sociological factors and distrust of local police, almost nobody gets arrested for these crimes and the cycle continues.

Four years ago, there was hope that the election of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, after 12 tumultuous years under Democrats would be what was needed to "shake things up" but while Rauner has clearly tried to set the state on a new path, he has found that entrenched interests stand in the way of real change. Namely, that being State House Speaker Michael Madigan, He has held his job in all but two years since 1983 and no American has ever presided over a legislative body any longer throughout history. Also, the Chairman of the state's Democrat party, Madigan wields tremendous power and has caused Rauner to lament that he is "not in charge" of the state he was elected to govern. Needless to say, that was not a good sound bite for a first time office-holder whose words often get him in trouble, and it is being used against him.

The 2014 nomination and election of Bruce Rauner, a multi-millionaire private equity businessman, who had very little in the way of ties to the Republican Party, in many ways was an early reference for how Donald Trump came to power two years later. One main difference though is that Rauner spent lavishly from his personal fortune to oust Democrat incumbent Pat Quinn, calling him a "failure." Many, myself included perhaps, were skeptical that a Republican could actually win statewide in Illinois these days, but Rauner pulled off the feat, and a surprising showing in the Chicago area, including among African-Americans was a big reason why. By virtue of the office he was elected to and the financial involvement he had and had invested in Republican candidates and organizations throughout the state, Rauner found himself firmly in control of the Republican Party.

His fights with Madigan, the General Assembly, and government labor unions started right away. For more than two years, Illinois was unable to produce a budget, social services were held in limbo, and some dealt with steep cuts. Stubbornly, Rauner refused to give in on his agenda, which included term limits for elected officials (such as Madigan) and he felt the public was on his side. Madigan simply refused to give an inch though, and prevailed over his party members to hold the line and wait the impasse out. The numbers for both Rauner and Madigan tumbled, but even as the Speaker clearly became the most unpopular political figure in the state, all that mattered was the hold he had on his own Chicago-based district and on the State House. The State Senate was virtually a junior partner.  With the pressure strong enough on some Republicans in competitive districts, Madigan ultimately won the battle of wills and a budget was passed over Rauner's veto.

This set off a curious change of events for the Rauner Administration from which he has yet to recover. Upset at losing (basically for the first time in his life), Rauner fired a bunch of key staffers, (and some others resigned) including his loyal Chief of Staff. He then hired for his Gubernatorial staff a bunch of officials from a conservative think tank. Discovered emails show that even his wife Diane, who has always been described as a Democrat, was very much involved in these decisions. The new sudden rightward shift by Rauner, whom had campaigned in 2014 as someone "without a social agenda" proved controversial and confusing. The maneuvers and past writings of some of the new staffers came to light and in a matter of a couple months, they were gone too. The Governor then proceeded to move sharply to the left, signing legislation on issues like abortion and illegal immigration that could have easily come from a Democrat Governor. The one constant has been Rauner's continued fights with organized labor. Many in state government jobs had clashed with Quinn when he was Governor and refused to vote for him, only to see Rauner win office and threaten them further. The GOP Governor did get to brag on one occasion recently, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Illinois white collar government worker who fought against being forced to pay union fees. Rauner championed this court case and his side was victorious on the Janus decision.

After his move to the left though, and the realization that he faced a tough path to reelection, many in the state's Republican Party, which he had such firm control of, started to turn on him. There had always been a level of mistrust about Rauner and doubts about his authenticity. The wealthy businessman gives speeches in which he deliberately drops the letter "g" from the end of words in order to sound folksy and he has a penchant for wearing outfits, such as a bedazzled leather biker vest that looks like he is pandering. In all fairness, Rauner does legitimately seem to be a Harley-Davidson rider. Some of his anecdotes and stories about his life and background have failed the truth test and critics point to him as having someone with a very vindictive streak.

For a long time, nobody expected him to face a challenge for re-nomination, and when one came, nobody really expected for it to wind up as serious as it did. Just as quickly as he gained the party under his wing, he saw it almost slip away from him completely. That might be a warning to Donald Trump, although the President has acolytes in the way that Bruce Rauner never has.

Speaking of Trump, it is worth nothing that in the strongly Democrat state of Illinois, Rauner has almost never mentioned his name as Governor and while he has refused to answer the question directly, is said to have not voted for Trump in 2016 and to be quite opposed to many policies as well as his personality. In spite of that, Rauner appears genuinely fond of Vice President Mike Pence, whom he served for two years as neighboring Governors. Rauner often pointed to the Republican Governors surrounding Illinois as evidence of how much better the state could be doing if not for the influence of Madigan and Indiana was certainly part of that. At a recent event for Pence in Illinois, Rauner appeared and spoke very positively about how he works with the Vice President. That was a curious political move itself. Very shortly after, when Donald Trump came to Downstate Illinois, his first visit to the state as President, Rauner did not attend. Rauner never mentions Trump and Trump never mentions Rauner either. Some were wondering if the President would either attack Rauner from the stage or endorse him, and which might be worse. Neither happened.

The Governor's primary opponent said she voted for Donald Trump and made a point in having a very late primary campaign press conference at the Chicago version of Trump Tower, but otherwise did not focus on him either. Based on the results, had State Representative Jeanne Ives gone after Rauner on the matter of Trump, she might have won the nomination. There may have even been a Presidential endorsement. One can surmise that as more of a Ted Cruz style social conservative, she was not that keen on Trump either.

Ives, a West Point grad, was a staunchly conservative vote in Springfield and had no qualms about using sharp political elbows. She was disappointed enough with Rauner's move to the left, that she challenged him in the March Republican primary. Nobody expected she would get very far of course, but she received significant financial backing from a former Rauner ally and dissatisfaction with the incumbent on the right was such that she only lost by a 51-49 margin. Very few Gubernatorial incumbents in history have ever survived a primary call anywhere near that close. In 2014, many in the Tea Party were attracted to Rauner's outsider status and the way he attacked career politicians in both parties, but by 2018 a ton of them were off the train completely.

Despite it all, Ives was severely outspent. The two candidates never had a formal debate, but she clearly got under Rauner's skin at a Chicago Tribune endorsement session joint appearance. Just about every newspaper in the state endorsed Rauner over Ives, and a big reason was a particularly inflaming television ad that the Ives campaign ran to attack Rauner on social issues. It featured actors portraying such things as an illegal immigrant terrorist (though the actor was white) and a transgender woman thanking Rauner for letting her use the ladies room. That was a distortion of the issue, but there's not really time to get into all that here.

Ives was slammed by many sides for this ad, including from the Rauner camp with some saying that it proved how un-electable she was and the fear of the damage she might do to other Republicans. I cast an unenthusiastic Republican primary vote for Bruce Rauner simply to ensure that Ives not be nominated. At the same time, Rauner ran a lot of ads accusing Ives of being insufficiently devoted to fighting Speaker Madigan and implying that she was somehow a puppet of his. Ives was especially offended by the characterization that she was "Madigan's Favorite Republican." The two were clearly not allied, but it is fair to assume that Madigan was quite fond of the damage she was doing to Rauner and would have loved to see her nominated. The hardball ads probably took their toll and Rauner narrowly survived and called for party unity. Ives, who did not place a concession call, said she would vote for the Governor in November but continued to call him a liar and said she would not campaign for him or even speak to him.

Before Illinois primaries, the candidates pick running-mates for Lt. Governor and they compete as a ticket.While Ives selected a Downstate former State Representative, it is more noteworthy that she and Rauner's running-mate, Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, once served together on the same suburban City Council in DuPage County. In 2014, Rauner selected Sanguinetti in order to bring Latin American diversity to the ticket and because she had some ties to the Tea Party. In her current job (which in fairness does not hold much power), she has been virtually invisible, at least in the Chicago media market, and Rauner has at times leaned heavily on other top female staffers. In the closing days of the primary campaign, Rauner seemed to remember her again and implored people to "vote for me and Evelyn."

Then, there are the Democrats. Ultimately, six contenders and their running-mates faced off in March. The field was larger earlier on but some candidates back in the pack dropped out or switched to other races. Before it all began though, it is important to know that Lisa Madigan, the state's four term Attorney General, who had been talked about for years as a future Governor and the strongest possible candidate for her party, did not run once again. She also happens to be the daughter of Michael Madigan and four years earlier was unable to work out a deal with him in which he would stop down from his job to make it more acceptable for her to run for Governor. This cycle, she announced he was not even running for reelection and was retiring, at least for now, from elected office.

Many Democrats also feared that Pat Quinn, whom before ascending to the Governorship had been seen as a political gadfly and perennial losing candidate, would seek to gain his job back and with name recognition could prevail in a crowded primary field, only to lose to Rauner again and take other Democrats down with him. Instead, Quinn ran in a crowded field for Attorney General and despite his name recognition advantage, finished second among Democrats.

Among the six Democrats on the primary ballot, three combined for about 96 percent of the vote. Chicago activist Tio Hardiman, an African-American who won several nearly all-white downstate counties in his 2014 primary challenge to Quinn (simply because he was not Quinn) did not top two percent of the vote this time as the lone African-American candidate for Governor, and the one candidate from Downstate Illinois did even worse.

The top three contained some big names and some big wallets and at times, the interchanges between them was quite brutal. The front-runner was billionaire J.B. Pritzker, a businessman and philanthropist who is heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. He comes from a politically connected family and a very rich one. In a 1998 Congressional bid, he finished third in a three way primary though. After that, and despite his sister eventually serving as Barack Obama's Secretary of Commerce, Pritzker remained loyal to Hillary Clinton and backed her, even against home state Senator Obama in 2008. He gave an interview in 2012, when it was reasonably clear that Obama would be facing Mitt Romney in a general election, where he made comments indicating that he would have to make up his mind as to whom to vote for and that like many he found the choices imperfect. Some Democrats tried to use this as indication that he was not fully committed to the party.

Pritizker in this campaign clearly made it known though that he would open his wallet if nominated and spend heavily on his campaign and well as subsidizing other Democrats. As someone even richer than Rauner, this was quite an appeal, and Madigan seemed to get on board with him. Of course, with Madigan being even unpopular among Democrat primary voters, Pritzker was loath to admit this, as Rauner and the other Democrats all tried to tar him with the association. Nonetheless, Pritzker consistently chose his words very carefully and was very more careful about attacking Madigan than the other two Democrats were.

During the course of a primary campaign, some old FBI wiretaps came to light in which Pritzker was speaking to then Governor Rod Blagojevich, who of course later went to prison, in part because of the things he was recorded saying. Pritzker schmoozed Blago on the tapes and lobbied for a potential statewide Constitutional Officer appointment, although there was no clear statement of a quid pro quo found. In discussing with Blagojevich potential replacements for Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate (the seat the then Governor attempted to sell) Pritzker was caught saying some impolite and dismissive things about African-American political figures. This created a firestorm, at least for a while, with one of the black politicians mentioned promising to enact retribution on Pritzker. Another though, longtime Secretary of State Jesse White, whom Pritzker had described as the "least offensive" African-American choice, had endorsed the candidate and stood by him. He also maintained the support of both of Illinois's U.S. Senators and many others in the Democrat establishment.

This was despite the fact that he was literally running against a Kennedy, which at one point in Chicago Democrat politics was a name akin to royalty. Chris Kennedy, who was not quite five years old when his father Robert was assassinated in 1968, had for years ran his family's interest in the Chicago management firm called Merchandise Mart. For several cycles, he was talked about as a potential candidate for one office or another, but he never ran, until this cycle. Once he got in, he seemed to struggle as a rookie candidate, gave rambling speeches, and was chronically late to events. (Later on, one of his brothers was nearly booed off stage in one Illinois county for going off on a rant about party support for Pritzker.) Kennedy,would also reveal that he was dealing with a medical condition that sometimes caused his hands to shake noticeably.

He seemed to get his footing a bit more the longer the race went on in discussing issues, but raised eyebrows by positioning himself as basically the least liberal candidate in the race. He expressed reservations about the legalization of marijuana for instance, to the dismay of many in the party, and cited his family's history of drug addiction as a reason. He also went out of his way to be critical, at times in quite personal tones, about Speaker Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and others. Some claimed that he would have been better off running in a primary for Cook County Assessor as corruption and influence peddling in that office was a big focus of his campaign. One issue where Kennedy remained staunchly liberal was that of guns. The son of a gun violence victim, he selected as his Lt. Governor pick, an African-American activist who had lost his son to gun violence.

The third main candidate in the race was State Senator Daniel Biss. He grew up in a fairly affluent family, but positioned himself as the "middle class" candidate in the race against a Pritzker and a Kennedy (and a Rauner.) The wonkish math professor (whom like Pritzker, and Mrs. Rauner is Jewish), received substantial grassroots support from Chicago area progressives. His campaign played on these constituencies by printing signs that said "Canna-Biss" and "Biss, Please." Initially, Biss selected as his running-mate a young, gay Latino Chicago Alderman, but that partnership lasted less than a week because the Gubernatorial candidate was apparently unaware that his running-mate an open member of Democratic Socialists of  America, supported the anti-Israel BDS movement. Next, Biss would turn to an African-American female State Representative from Rockford.

For his running-mate, Pritzker had chosen Juliana Stratton, an African-American from Chicago who was a relatively new member to Michael Madigan's State House. In 2016, she knocked off a black incumbent who ran afoul of Madigan and the party by working with Rauner. Even Barack Obama got involved in that primary. Stratton gave a dynamic speech on primary night, which went even better than expected for the front-running Pritzker campaign.

Despite some who were willing to write him off over the "tapes" controversy, the money he spent on the primary proved to be well-spent as he won 45 percent of the vote. In the end, it was not even close. Biss finished with 27 percent and Kennedy received 24 percent. Many expected Kennedy would finish a close second, because of lingering affection for his family, especially among African-Americas, but it was a disappointing showing for the first-time candidate and an indication that it is unlikely that any member of the generation of the children of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy, will ever win statewide office on their own. (The Bush Family is far more successful through the generations in that regard.) Months before the primary, I thought that Biss would ultimately finish ahead of Kennedy, and that proved to be the case. I thought Kennedy would do better though towards the end because he had many of the state's newspaper endorsements, and I did not think Pritzker would win so easily.

There is no way that I could write about this race and not talk about the elephant in the room... or the donkey... or whatever it is that can be used to express the fact that Pritzker is an extremely rotund man. In some ways, he resembles a fatter Babe Ruth, and is not exactly made for the television age, but it did not matter in the primary. Questions about his health may be present though, just as there were in New Jersey surrounding former Republican Governor Chris Christie. I wonder if Pritzker, considering his political ambitions, has at any point contemplated a gastric bypass procedure. This may be the most drastic contrast in waistlines between two male candidates ever. The tall and lanky Rauner seems to be losing weight in office and some have remarked that he at times appears overly gaunt.

Since the primary, negative ads have been airing, but in some ways the race has remained fairly quiet. Developments in what will be a crowded Chicago Mayoral election early next year have generated more political headlines of late. Some Democrats are fretting that Pritzker is an uninspiring candidate who is letting precious time slip by in not being more visible or offering more in the way of concrete policy proposals. In that regard, he has generated some comparisons to his old friend Hillary Clinton. The anticipation is that both campaigns will scorch the earth down the homestretch and even if they can never generate positive feelings towards them will be effectively able to paint their opponent as unacceptable.

The theme of corruption and cronyism by Republicans against Pritzker and Madigan will be constant. The Governor's rhetoric has grown increasingly more urgent in recent weeks. He recently said that he hopes that Madigan is doing something illegal and gets prosecuted. He also continues to attack (ironically) Pritzker for his wealth and claims that he inherited nothing while all of Pritzker's  money is inherited. The most noticeable line of attack though has involved toilets. Some time back, Pritzker ordered all the toilets to be removed from a mansion he bought, so that the property can be declared uninhabitable and he was able to get a big property tax break. Rauner staffers sometimes trail Pritzker with toilets. It is a very potent negative against the challenger, but it may not even matter to some amid all the political noise.

There is reason to believe that Pritzker and Democrats are concerned about the Madigan connection issue, as the Speaker's office has now been drawn into an issue involving years of sexual harassment by Madigan's top aide, and allegations of misconduct by others in the organization. Pritzker is running an ad in which he mockingly attacks Madigan as being a puppy hater, trying to defuse these attacks as overly political. Nonetheless, the Rauner campaign will continue stressing that single party rule of the state under the two men will lead to a massive tax increase. For their part, Democrats have focused on Rauner's "failures" including deaths that occurred in a Downstate Veteran's Home, under his watch. The Pritzker campaign received a good deal of criticism, including by some allies, for a recent ad, in which a false claim was asserted that Rauner stands to benefit financially from the Trump Administration family separation policy. That is not the case, and Rauner spoke out forcefully against the practice of seperating children from their parents at the border.

Considering the Democrat make-up of Illinois and the undisputed fact that Rauner is easily among the least popular Governors in America, he clearly faces a steep climb. That got even worse since the primary by the entrance into the race of Republican State Senator Sam McCann, who is running under the banner of the newly created Conservative Party. A Downstate politician, McCann is running as a socially conservative, pro-Trump, pro-organized labor alternative. It is also true that Democrats and labor unions helped take part in getting the required signatures to place McCann on the ballot. Rauner and his Republican allies point to him as being a Democrat plant. A large labor union recently issues a joint endorsement of Pritzker and McCann. A Libertarian is also running in the person of Navy veteran Kash Jackson (not his real name) who is engulfed in some sort of child support collection legal proceedings which apparently have him at risk of being put behind bars at any time. (A family friend from decades ago, former professional wrestler Jon Stewart failed in his Libertarian Gubernatorial bid at the convention.)

It remains to be seen just how many votes McCann or other alternatives on the ballot may get, but some think that it will be substantial, and perhaps as high as 15 percent. Some particularly virulent anti-Rauner voices even predict the Governor might finish in third place. I doubt that happens, but however many votes McCann gets will hurt the Republican nominee, even as he will also take some votes that might have otherwise gone in protest to Pritzker. Without the support of social conservatives, who went for Ives in the primary, it is hard to see any path Rauner has to victory this year.

Nonetheless, it is still not even Labor Day, and Pritzker has more vulnerabilities than most candidates. He and his party are hoping that Donald Trump is bluffing about springing Blago from prison, because the last thing Democrats want is the former Governor going on a media tour and talking about his past relationship with the current nominee.

In both 2006 and 2010, unpopular Democrat Governors were able to win against challengers they were able to successfully paint as even worse choices. That is what Rauner is hoping for this year, but that is harder to do in Illinois when you are a Republican, instead of the reverse. In theory, Pritzker can be painted as unacceptable ethically, but the math just might not be there this year for Republicans, especially with the "conservative" spoiler. In the end, Rauner might only be able to get about 30 percent of the vote. I will be among those who will be voting enthusiastically for him, in order to prevent Pritzker and Madigan from doing more damage to this great state. That vote will likely be for naught though. Perhaps four years from now, if its not too late, a stronger candidate than Bruce Rauner will emerge, who will have the statewide appeal, to make the case for fundamental change.

Until then, Pritzker might find what every recent Governor of both parties have found in dealing with Madigan. That the Speaker considers himself more powerful than any Governor and often gets his way. If Madigan were to step down today, it would all but ensure that the Democrat was elected by an even wider margin, but he is not offering and Pritzker is not asking. After the election, perhaps Madigan might feel that he is now free to step aside, having finally vanquished Rauner.

Like most places, the Party of Lincoln in the Land of Lincoln has been co-opted by the Cult of Trump and that is not something I will ever accept and all the more reason why this election cycle is not like others have been for me. I do not think Bruce Rauner is anywhere near as bad as Donald Trump, but the two men have some unfortunate similarities. Once again, the rise and anticipated fall of Rauner should be a cautionary tale to Republicans in all states and nationwide about what could happen when you let an outsider take over a party.

In closing, there is at least one thing that Bruce Rauner can brag about. Two Chicago sports teams have reached the pinnacle of success under his term, allowing him the opportunity to get booed at championship rallies (although not nearly as bad as Pat Quinn once was) when the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup of the decade in 2015 and when the Chicago Cubs reached the baseball promised land and won the World Series in 2016. Thankfully, the man will still be Governor at the end of this October.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

6 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 
6 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

13 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely 1 Leans, 2 Tossup)
13 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Idaho Governor- Race of the Day

84 Days Until Election Day

Idaho Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Likely Republican

As he is approaching 12 years in office as Governor, and after 10 consecutive electoral victories, Republican Butch Otter is stepping away from the job he has held longer than any current Governor, and the one which he had long coveted beforehand. He indicated towards the end of the 2014 election that it would be his last term, and cited his wife, saying if he ran again, it would have to be as a bachelor. Interestingly enough, Otter's wife Lori, whom is 25 years younger and a former Miss Idaho, whom married her husband shortly before he became Governor, was thought of a possible successor. However, the First Lady is not seeking elective office this year.

After passing on a 2014 primary challenge, it appears that Congressman Raul Labrador was intent on running for Governor this cycle regardless of the opposition. Puerto Rican born and Las Vegas raised, Labrador moved to his wife's home state in 1991 and practiced immigration law. He entered politics and in 2008 was elected to Congress. On Capitol Hill, he became known as one of the conservative rebels who often chafed at the GOP leadership. He made his own bids to become the top House Republican but fell well short of having enough support. He did receive backing for his bid for Governor by such nationally known figures as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Labrador would be far from the only GOP Gubernatorial candidate though. A variety of little known or colorful characters seem to always get on the ballot and occasionally take part in televised debates. This year though, there were three main contenders competing in the May primary. In addition to Labrador, businessman and physician Tommy Ahlquist entered the race. Like Labrador, a member of the LDS Church, Ahlquist stressed his outsider credentials and brought Mitt Romney to the state to campaign for him.

The Idaho Republican establishment though seemed to be firmly behind the candidacy of Lt. Governor Brad Little. He had the support of Otter, as well as past Idaho Governors, as well as current and past Senators and Congressmen. While the polls at times looked iffy for Little, on Primary Day, he won 37 percent of the vote, to Labrador's 33 percent, as he joined a string of House Republicans who have failed to win statewide nominations. Ahlquist finished third with 26 percent.

Democrats are strongly outnumbered by Republicans in Idaho, but also held their own primary of course. The 2014 party nominee ran again and like Little had the support of most his party's establishment. A.J. Balukoff is a businessman who serves on the Boise School District. In 2014, he tried to cut a moderate image and spent three million dollars of his own money. He was believed to be about as strong of a candidate that could be found against the politically weakened Otter at the time, and he lost by 15 percent.

This year, Democrats in Idaho decided to go for a much younger and more liberal candidate. Thirty-eight year old Paulette Jordan resigned her seat in the State House to run for Governor. She received left-wing support from some places around the country, but also clicked with Idaho party activists, whom in their conservative state had delivered a blowout win to Bernie Sanders in 2016 Presidential caucus. Despite her progressive bona fides, she has tried to take a middle ground approach on gun rights. If she wins, she would become the nation's first Native American Governor. Democrats also nominated a Native American politician in 1994, who ran to succeed a Democrat. He lost that race and the party has been shut out in Boise ever since.

There is not much in the way of polling at this point, but it is also true that Republicans had a competitive three-way primary and the party may not be totally united around Little. After so many years of Republicans as Governor, and with Otter in office, there may be a desire to change that would probably be seen in a high number of undecided voters and a somewhat less than overwhelming lead for Little over his Democrat opponent. None of that is too surprising or inconsistent with some recent Idaho Gubernatorial polls from past cycles. Republicans tend to close late there and win by a stronger margin at the end.

While it is too early to determine that this race may already be over, or to question if Democrats might have been in a better position with a more moderate candidate, Little is pretty likely to win another term for his party, and probably by a solid margin at the end.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

5 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 
6 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

12 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup)
13 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Hawai'i U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

85 Days Until Election Day

Hawai'i U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

In 2012, the Japanese born Democrat Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She is also the first Buddhist ever to serve in the upper chamber.  A reliably liberal vote, her first term has been relatively low profile, after a long career in Hawai'i politics and then the U.S. House. She is seeking reelection despite announcing last year that she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer. She had a surgical procedure to remove her kidney, and as she approaches age 71, there is not much talk about her health situation being dire.

Hawai'i has always been a strong Democrat state and the past decade has seen it move overwhelmingly so in that direction. She is likely to win this year by the largest margin of any U.S. Senate candidate. This past Saturday, a primary was held, and eight Republicans competed for the right to lose to Hirono. Needless to say, most in the state were more interested in the Gubernatorial primary or one for an open U.S. House seat.

Six thousand plus votes though was enough to clinch the GOP nomination for retired computer engineer Ron Curtis. He says he would donate his Senate salary to charity and based on his campaign website, does not seem to be spending a whole lot of money on that either. Curtis received 19.5 percent of the vote, and 18 percent of primary voters left their ballot blank. His nearest competitor at 16 percent of the vote was educator and businesswoman Consuelo Anderson, whom if she had won, would have likely been the only African-American Republican woman nominated for the Senate this year.

Ron Curtis has the sort of name that sounds like a tv anchorman and it also looks like he would have the hair for that job, or for looking "Senatorial", but in Hawai'i, it's simply not in the cards.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 5 D (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup), 1 R (1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
28 D (23 holdovers, 3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup), 43 R (42 holdovers, 1 Tossup)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hawai'i Governor- Race of the Day

86 Days Until Election Day

Hawai'i Governor

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

Yesterday, Hawaiians went to the polls and selected candidates in the party primaries. The make-up of the overwhelmingly Democrat state indicates that for all intents and purposes that the contest for Governor was decided yesterday.

Incumbent Governor David Ige won re-nomination for a second term. The most recent numbers show that margin was 50-43 percent over Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who a while back looked like she was headed for a triumph over the incumbent. The series of events that led Ige to becoming Governor involve Hanabusa and thus it was somewhat ironic that she waged a primary challenge against him.

When longtime Democrat Senator Daniel Inouye was dying, he privately let it be known that he wanted Hanabusa selected to replace him. However, the state's Governor Neil Abercrombie, a Caucasian did not take that suggestion and instead picked his own Lt. Governor, Brian Schatz, also a white man, for the vacant Senate seat when Inouye passed away. This set off a chain of events dividing the traditional wing of the party in the state along with the more anti-establishment progressives, from which Abercrombie had always been associated. Hanabusa ran for the Senate seat in a primary against Schatz and was narrowly defeated. At the same time, Abercrombie was tossed from office in a landslide margin by Ige, then a fairly little known State Senator, despite the fact that the incumbent had the endorsement of then President and former Hawai'i resident Barack Obama.. This kind of rebuke of an incumbent in Hawaiian politics was somewhat unprecedented. It is also true that if Hanabusa had decided to run for Governor against Abercrombie, instead of the Senate seat, she likely would have become Governor. She won her House seat back in 2016, after leaving it two years earlier for the losing Senate run, but decided to leave it once again this cycle to run for Governor.

Perhaps, that regret led her to challenge Ige this time and the party was once again split. The precedent for knocking off an incumbent Democrat had been established and Ige looked very vulnerable. The incident involving his Administration sending off an erroneous bulletin  that the North Koreans had launched a missile. While he was not personally at fault for the human error, Ige was forced to apologize for the confusion and panic that understandably ensued this past January. The damage seemed to linger as polls from the Hanabusa campaign and elsewhere showed her ahead of the incumbent by as much as 36 points.

It has been said that more recently Ige's handing of the volcano eruption on the Big Island had helped stabilize his standing and even though much of the party establishment had turned on him, after backing him in 2014, he pulled ahead late in the game and won a victory last night. Today, some Democrats are wondering if the Hanabusa campaign and her allies needed to make the case against the incumbent in a more forceful way.

Ige, of a Japanese origin, is currently the nation's only Asian-Pacific Governor and that might remain the case. In a state such as Hawai'i where Asian-Americans make up the largest percentage of residents, both major party nominees will share that background. The winner of the Republican primary yesterday was 37 year old House Minority Leader Andria Tupola, of a Samoan background. Being Minority Leader in the Hawai'i legislature takes things to the extreme. She leads a caucus of only five members out of 51 total. The Hawai'i Senate has zero Republicans. Tupola is seen as an attractive figure for the party. She won 53 percent of the vote to defeat two other candidates, the closest being 88 year old John Carroll, a white man who served decades ago in both legislative houses. Since then, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor or for federal office several times, and was most recently the 2016 GOP U.S. Senate nominee. He also had to surrender his law license last year due to professional misconduct. Carroll's name recognition among Republicans had him leading the polls, but in the end, what is left of Hawaiian Republicans went in a new direction.

Last night also saw the primaries for Lt. Governor, where candidates ran separately and and are now matched up with the Gubernatorial nominees. The last elected Lt. Governor resigned early this year to take a job in the private sector and reportedly and at least one other Democrat who would have been in line to take the job decided it was not something they wanted. The current interim Lt. Governor ran instead for Congress this year and lost in a primary yesterday.

Five Democrats did seek the position though and State Senator Josh Green, a physician, appears to have beaten his closest competitor and Senate colleague Jill Tokuda by about two and a half percentage points. It appears that Green will be the only white candidate among the four on the tickets. His wife though is Asian-American. On the lower turnout Republican side, the results are even closer. The apparent winner is businesswoman Marissa Kerns, a native of the Philippines, who looks to be 211 votes ahead of businessman and former Air Force office Steve Lipscomb. A third Republican candidate, Jeremy Low, a research analyst is not all that far behind them either.

Republicans held the Governorship of Hawai'i not all that long ago, and used to have some hopes of winning the office back, but that seems to be impossible this year. Even with large remnants of the party divided and the establishment against him in the primary, which apparently included every single living former Democrat Governor, David Ige has already faced his toughest challenge of the year. His Republican opponent might be a good candidate with a strong message for change, but is simply not running in the right state.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

5 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 5 R (2 Safe, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

12 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup), 12 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Georgia Governor- Race of the Day

87 Days Until Election Day

Georgia Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Often, those who are elected Governor differ from those who seek federal legislative office in the sense that they are less purely ideological and more open to the concept of reaching out to the opposing party in order to get things done. The nominees in Georgia this year though seem to be running towards their respective bases though and the divisions between them are very harsh. In some ways, both nominees are going to do better in this election because their opponent is so unpopular with the other side. That cannot change the overriding factor though that Georgia is a pretty conservative state and one that has become very difficult for any Democrat to carry statewide.

After two terms, Republican Governor Nathan Deal is term-limited. Both of his Gubernatorial victories were expected to turn out a bit closer than they actually did. In both instances though, Deal received over 50 percent of the vote, meaning that a runoff would not be required, as is mandatory in the state if someone in a general election finishes below a majority. Democrats had hopes that a coalition of the state's high number of African-American voters, plus a burgeoning Hispanic electorate, plus the votes of upscale young whites who located to Georgia in recent years from places outside the Deep South, would be enough to maybe turn Georgia blue. That has not been the case thus far.

Two Democrats wound up competing for the Gubernatorial nomination this year, and they were both named Stacey. Former State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of the ex-President and the once highly touted 2014 nominee decided he would not seek another chance and other Democrats who received mention including Sally Yates ,the Obama Justice Department official, who received much notice when she was fired by Donald Trump as Acting Attorney General early in his Presidency also did not run.

So, it was Stacey A. vs. Stacey E. The latter, Stacey Evans was a former State Representative who came from the Republican leaning suburbs of Atlanta while Stacey Abrams also served alongside her in the State House at around the same including the position of Minority Leader. Abrams represented heavily African-American areas of Atlanta and nearby areas.

While both women are close in age to one another, they represented a difference not only as it came to race but ideology. Evans ran as a Bill Clinton-era "New Democrat" of sorts and focused on her ability to win Republican votes and govern effectively. Abrams ran as an unapologetic progressive who supported liberal policies across the board. The 1990s were clearly over, as even Hillary Clinton lined up to support Abrams, as did many Democrats from around the country. Her candidacy to become the nation's first African-American female Governor became a cause celebre. Abrams' campaign was very well-funded, but nearly 60 percent of her financial support came from out of state. Evans had the backing of Democrat stalwarts such as former Governor Roy Barnes and former U.S. Senator Max Cleland, but in the end, it was not even close in the May primary, as Abrams blew away all polling expectation and won by more than 3-1.

Republicans were having a more crowded and closer contest all the while. As Georgia Democrats were clearly putting emphasis on liberalism, Republicans were pushing for a conservative as Governor. Several candidates ran and stressed their right-wing bona fides and in some cases, loyalty to Donald Trump (which is not necessarily the same thing.) State Senator Michael Williams, whom was among the earliest Trump backers for President, finished the primary with just five percent of the vote He ran an ad in which he presented a "Deportation Bus" designed to round  up criminals and return them to Mexico. Businessman and former Navy Seal Clay Tippins stressed his political outsider credentials and won 12 percent. Hunter Hill, a former State Senator, also with a military background, received some national conservative support, for his bid but at 18 percent fell short of making the runoff.

That meant that while Abrams advanced to the general election, the top two Republicans would compete for the next two months in a runoff-campaign. Those participants were the ones most expected to advance. The front-runner for the nomination had been Lt. Governor Casey Cagle who had been in that position since 2006 and had the support of outgoing Governor Deal. The first round of voting had him easily in first place with 39 percent of the vote. His campaign received the most notice when acting in his capacity of Lt. Governor he threatened to strip Georgia-based Delta Airlines of tax breaks when they discounted a membership discount program for the NRA in the wake of gun control debates in the news.

In second place in May, with just over a quarter of the was Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was finishing up his second term in statewide office, where he was mostly considered a mainstream Republican. In his campaign for Governor though, he took steps to appear more in sync with the populist right. In one of his own ads, he posed with a pick-up truck and said he might need to might need to "round up criminal aliens and take them home." He also featured another ad in which he held a gun and appeared to threaten harm to an actor playing the role of someone who wanted to date his teenage daughter. It seems as if Kemp was even exaggerating his southern accent in these tv spots and playing what amounts to a right-wing cartoon character.

After the primary, most expected that Cagle would ultimately prevail, even if the battle might get ugly, and despite the fact that the defeated Williams, Tippins, and Hunter all endorsed Kemp. After all, the Lt. Governor back in 2006 won a major upset victory in a runoff for his current job when he bested nationally prominent Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed. In 2018 though, news stories surfaced that questioned Cagle's financial relationship with a lobbyist and a "secret recordings" were unearthed in which the candidate came across as unprincipled and disrespectful of primary voters.

All of this began to quickly take a toll but the coup de grace to the Cagle campaign was when Donald Trump Tweeted his endorsement of Kemp days before the runoff. Based on the results, it looked like Kemp was already on pace to win, but the Presidential seal of approval might have turned into a laugher. Kemp won 69-31. I cannot think of any other runoff circumstance where the first place finisher of the primary fared worse percentage wise in the second round.

From now until November, Georgians will see Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp attack each other as radical, out of the mainstream, unacceptable choices. Many might wind up believing it about both, but at this point at least, there does not seem to be a third party candidate on the ballot who looks certain to get enough votes to cause a general election runoff in December. That is not out of the realm of possibility though.

Neither party nominated a candidate with the most potential statewide appeal. Even despite the bad publicity he received, Cagle would likely be a solid favorite over Kemp. If Evans had somehow been chosen by the Democrats, she might have a real shot against Kemp. Polls from July in regards to the actual race though show what amounts to a dead heat. Whatever the final result, this will be a good deal closer than it otherwise would have been with another candidate on the Republican side.

If Abrams is able to beat Kemp in November, it might be the upset of the night and one of the top headlines nationwide. Many on the left firmly believe it can happen, while others believe that racism and/or sexism is destined to doom Abrams from the start. The bottom line is that no Democrat in Georgia has won statewide in some time and Abrams is to the left of pretty much everyone who ran. African-American Democrats have won lower statewide office in Georgia before, indicating that plenty of whites are able to overlook the matter of race.

By virtue of the one on one primary voting, both parties have expressed a clear preference for nominee and the contest for Governor is now placed before the voters. In many states, Abrams' standing as a very left-wing black woman would not prevent her from beating a candidate like Kemp, but in Georgia, Republicans still hold the most sway. Even moderate or suburban Georgia Republicans, who might fear what could become of the state economically, are probably going to wind up voting for Kemp over Abrams, even if they feel uneasy about the whole thing.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

4 D,  (1 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 5 R (2 Safe, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

11 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup), 12 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 2 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Florida U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

88 Days Until Election Day

Florida U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

If Democrats have any hope at all of winning control of the U.S. Senate, they simply must defend this seat. The map for them is tough enough without it and the party likely was not anticipating that Florida could be such a marquis race this cycle. At this moment, the race is a true tossup that could go either way. Polling tends to even show a slight Republican lead. That has been with a larger financial advantage on behalf of the presumptive GOP nominee that might be the case at the end though. If the Democrats have a very good night across the country, they will probably hold on here.

Senator Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term in office as he enters his late 70s. While successful politically,  the Democrat has never had a huge profile at home in a way that other Florida politicians have and has been described as fairly bland. This is despite the fact that he can brag that he visited outer space in 1986, when serving as a U.S. Congressman. His two reelections to the Senate have come against flawed Republican nominees who struggled to say relevant and Nelson was able to take appropriate advantage.

Some have assumed that would be the case in 2018 as well .Ever since his narrow reelection as Governor, the term limited Republican set his sights on running for the Senate, rather Nelson sought a second term or not. Throughout his time a Governor, Scott had a pretty middling approval rating and many considered him lucky to have twice won razor-thin one point victories for Governor, which is an office that Republicans have won consistently up until now. He was able to overcome a past chapter involving his tenure as a hospital corporation CEO which became involved in Medicare fraud to upset both the Republican establishment choice for Governor and then the Democrats. His past as a businessman became a major issue in both of his Gubernatorial victories.

Scott's name recognition and checkbook was at the level that no serious Republican would dare mount a primary challenge agaisnt him for the Senate, but the general consensus was that he would be an underdog against Nelson.

After raising some eyebrows in 2016 by cozying up to Donald Trump in a state where both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were seeking the Republican nomination, the election itself of Trump has led Scott to become more measured in his support, and has certainly been less vocally praiseful as his likely GOP successor for the Gubernatorial nomination has been. The past year has also seen Scott improve his political profile and his poll numbers improve. While he can come across as an awkward politician, who is not smooth in his vocal delivery, he also has impressed upon the citizens of his state that he is extremely hard-working. As the economy of Florida has improved, Scott has gotten marks for competence and many observers have remarked that he has gotten better as a first-time office holder in working with others to achieve objectives. His handling of several natural disasters in Florida has been seen as strong and in the aftermath of this year's school shooting in Broward County, he led the effort for some moderate gun control efforts and other school safety measures. These steps will not please the gun control activists on the left, but he did show a willingness to go further than other Republicans, including Donald Trump have, and exhibited some independence from the NRA which had previously graded him as A plus.

There has also been a bit of a subtle (or perhaps I should say stubble change) that I have noticed in the past few months with Scott. While the man is definitely bald on top, he has started growing out the hair on the sides of his head a bit instead of rocking a completely slick dome. He looks more like a businessman now and less like a tall, skinny, creepy Mr. Clean.

In addition to the gun issue, Scott has stated that he disagrees with the Administration's policy on child desperation at the border, which was very controversial a couple of months ago and has now been scuttled. In spite of all this, Scott will wear his party label and the association with Donald Trump on him as he seeks federal office in a midterm year. Many have wondered if the Puerto Ricans who fled severe damage in Hurricane Maria to become new Florida residents will vote in a way that will further disadvantage Republicans. Data has yet to indicate a strong voter registration effort though and recent polls have shown Scott doing fairly well, for a Republican, with Hispanic voters, including non-Cuban Americans. His competence in dealing with the storms that have threatened Florida are part of the reason , and he might just be more well-known and visible than Bill Nelson, who spends a lot of time in Washington D.C, is.

Nelson has tried to use the gun control issue against Scott,but is also leery of going too far on the issue in a purple state like Florida. All the traditional issues that divide the parties will be at play here and outside groups will be heavily involved. Scott has spent a lot of money on ads and other ways to improve his image with Floridians and it seems to be paying off, as most polls have shown him with a very narrow lead on Nelson. The attacks against Scott though are likely to come down the road in the campaign homestretch and Democrats will hope the Governor is put back on the defensive. Nelson made some headlines this week by making a pretty serious but unsubstantial claim that Russians have already penetrated voting systems in Florida. This is clearly an issue on the minds of the Democrat base, but Nelson will eventually be expected to produce some evidence to back up the claim.

It just might be that despite Senate incumbency and a polarizing President that people want to vote against, that Scott can win this race against a politically out of shape Nelson. The Governor has shown an ability to win very close races in his state, and if he were seeking another term, would be the favorite with probably some points to spare this time. Instead, as I spoke about in yesterday's write-up, Democrats might wind up with the edge over a very Trumpian GOP nominee. Trump, who of course has Mar-A-Lago is likely to want to return to Florida to have rallies ahead of the midterms several times between now and November and that might leave Scott in a bit of an awkward position.

Until there is ample evidence to suggest though that Nelson has the kind of political problems that are impossible to survive, this race is still a tossup, and in those kinds of races, incumbents, which Nelson is in this case, usually are the ones who survive, and unless all conventional wisdom regarding how anti-Trump sentiment will lead to a good night for Democrats in marginal areas is wrong, it would be a mistake to cast a bet against Nelson prevailing.

If somehow though, I wind up being wrong and Republicans win both the Governorship and pick up the Senate seat of a veteran Democrat with Donald Trump being quite visible, that is a sign that the Sunshine State might be out of reach for Democrats in any prime contest.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 4 D (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup), 1 R (1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
27 D (23 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Tossup), 43 R (42 holdovers, 1 Tossup)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Florida Governor- Race of the Day

89 Days Until Election Day

Florida Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook:  Leans Democrat

The GOP has had a political stranglehold on Tallahassee for the past 20 years, after many years of having been shut out of power. This year, while the state is still very much a political battleground, luck may be running out on the Republicans keeping the Governorship, at least, after five consecutive wins, the last two of which being by a single percentage point.

The current Governor who demonstrated his ability to win tight elections in the state is Republican Rick Scott. He is term-limited from seeking another term and is instead engaged in a very competitive battle for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats. For a long-time, betters would have said that Republicans would have a better chance of winning the open Governorship again than Scott knocking off a long-time incumbent Democrat for the Senate, but I believe that has now changed.

Republicans were believed to have a much stronger bench in the state than the Democrats and would be better funded. That only goes so far though, considering the likely GOP nominee is not someone who has either won statewide before, or is a free-spending millionaire, such as Scott was when he upset the "next in line" establishment candidate back in 2010.

The GOP bench in the state is deep but for a variety of reasons, most office holders decided not to run for Governor, including the current Lt. Governor, Attorney General, CFO, and a former House Speaker, who were all considered potential rising stars. Even Mike Huckabee, the former longtime Governor of Arkansas, who had moved to Florida, was said to be looking into the race, but he did not run. The current Speaker, Richard Corcoran looked for months like he was all but in, but demurred in the end due to lack of support. Jack Latvala, a popular State Senator had to withdraw from the race, and eventually the State Senate itself, after much self-protest, after a variety of allegations came to light  regarding sexual harassment and unwanted advances towards women.

This left two major candidates in the GOP field. The front-runner had been Adam Putnam, the two-term Commissioner of Agriculture, a statewide elected position. He had been eyeing the Governorship for many years and was the candidate considered by many to be "next in line" and the reason some others may not have entered the race. At just 44 years old, Putnam has been in office nearly all his adult life. At 26, he was elected to Congress and served for a decade, as the redheaded politician became a very visible presence on Capitol Hill. He rose in the Leadership ranks, all the way up to Conference Chairman, and seemed on path to one day be Speaker of the U.S. House, but when his party lost the majority, he determined he would rather return home to Florida, run for statewide office, and bid his time until a chance to be Governor opened up. A native Floridian with a strong background in farming, Putnam is a good fit for his current job, but it raises the question as to whether someone of his background is the strongest potential Republican to appeal to suburban voters, either in a primary or general election, who have grown up in other places around the country.

The other Republican contender is current Congressman Ron DeSantis. He is even younger than Putnam and will turn 40 next month. A native of Florida, DeSantis grew up in a more urban/suburban area than Putnam. He graduated from Harvard Law School and also served in the U.S. Navy and was decorated for service in Iraq. In 2012, he was elected to the U.S. promising to offer conservative representation. Four years later, when it looked like Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio was done with the U.S. Senate, DeSantis embarked on a bid for his seat. When Rubio jumped back into a Senate race though, DeSantis dutifully went back to run for another House term. His statewide ambition persisted, as he ran for Governor, albeit not a lot of people gave him a chance for the nomination.

One big change though was that DeSantis started to morph from a Trump critic in the Presidential primaries, to a strong supporter of the President ,a part time resident of the state, who had won Florida easily in the primary, over Rubio, the state's U.S. Senator. Trump of course also won Florida in the general election and DeSantis has gone to great lengths over the past couple of years to associate himself with Trump. For his part, Putnam has stated his support for Trump as well, but apparently not as enthusiastically.

On a couple of occasions this year, Trump has Tweeted words of support for DeSantis, but more recently has issues a full-throated endorsement of the Congressman and has traveled to Florida to campaign for him. This has definitely caused a tremendous swing in the polls and DeSantis now looks like a heavy favorite to win the primary near the end of this month. He has said he cannot think of any issue where he disagrees with Trump and his campaign ads, (for a state government election) are pretty much pro-Trump "cult of personality" testimonials in which he wears a red hat, reads a Trump book to his infant child, and implores another one of his young kids playing with bricks to "build the wall." This is all going to get him a lot of notice and probably votes in a 2018 Republican primary, where so many of his party's voters have an obsessive need to defend anything DJT, but it is not something that is as likely to help in a general election.

As for Putnam, his campaign has stalled big-time, and for all intents and purposes is now on par with the past Jeb Bush era of Florida Republican politics that is now out of vogue in the Sunshine State. The two candidates have had contentious debates, with Putnam accusing DeSantis of being an all-rhetoric empty suit, while DeSantis accuses Putnam of being in the pocket of the special interests. We saw how those sort of arguments were decided in the 2016 GOP Presidential primary. It has also been tough for Putnam to paint DeSantis as a Washington insider who has been absent from Florida, when Putnam also had served in Congress.

Of course, we must also look at the Democrats running this year. There are several of them and the primary result is more up in the air. Whom they pick will go a great deal towards deciding if the party will break it's drought on being kept out of the Governorship. As was the case with Republicans, several prominent Democrats did not run. For a while, it looked like the main contender might be John Morgan a personal injury attorney, who was little known before bankrolling the 2014 initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state. He would declare his disillusionment with politics though and did not enter the race. He also left the Democrats to become an Independent.

For a short while, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, whom had lost the Senate general election to Rubio two years earlier, was said to be considering the primary race, with an unusual twist.  He would announce that recently defeated Republican Congressman David Jolly, an ardent NeverTrumper, would be his Lt. Governor running-mate. The hybrid ticket idea did not seem to go over well though with many Democrats and never came to fruition. At present, none of the major party candidates have indicated whom they may want for Lt. Governor. After the primary, the two winners will make their selection, and traditionally, these choices are done to balance the ticket in what could be a variety of ways from age to region to race and ethnicity to experience.

In alphabetical order, the five main Democrats running for Governor (out of a total of seven)consist of firstly, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. He is 39 years old and the only African-American in the field. He received some negative headlines a couple of months ago regarding his personal finances and $400,000 in mortgage debts. His campaign received a shot in the arm though when he was endorsed by Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator and 2016 Presidential contender who is beloved in many left-wing circles.

Attorney Gwen Graham knocked off a freshman Republican Congressman in 2014, but only served one term as redistricting made her district impossible to win for a Democrat. So, she set her eyes on 2018 and the Governorship. After all, it's basically in her blood as her father Bob Graham served two terms as Governor and then three terms in the U.S. Senate. Over a long career, the senior Graham never lost an election in Florida, though his 2004 Presidential campaign never went anywhere. His daughter is now the only woman seeking the office of Governor and that could help her considerably.

Jeff Greene is a relatively late entrant to the field. A real estate investor said to be worth billions, he was unsuccessful in attempting to win his party's nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010. (He also once lost a Congressional primary in California in the early '80s as a Republican.) While Greene says he will stand up to Donald Trump, he is also a former friend of the current President and member of the Mar-A-Lago Golf Club, who practically lives next door. He has publicized a video of him and Trump yelling at each other in the Mar-A-Lago dining room.

Businessman and attorney Chris King is another one of the several candidates running still under 40. He has tried to portray himself as an outsider and fresh face for the state politically but seems to have not gained much traction in the polls.

Phillip Levine is the former Mayor of Miami Beach who cites his business success and progressive views on social and environmental issues as a good fit for the state. Gun control issues are very much  a part of the conversation in the state after the High School shooting tragedy in Parkland  His base in Southern Florida (though he might split the Jewish vote with Greene) could be important in the primary. He can also boast of having been endorsed by Shaquille O'Neal, the former Center of the Miami Heat, although an endorsement from Dwyane Wade, whom Trump once referenced in a controversial Tweet might even be better at present.

I think it is safe to say that Republicans would most want to run against Gillum and least want to run against Graham. The third "G", Greene might also be a tough sell in a statewide general election, but he it would be a bit of an upset if he won the primary, though he has the money to be a contender. Right now, Graham and Levine look like they are most likely to battle it out for first. If Gillum is able to put the stories about his finances behind him and receive strong African-American backing in all parts of the state, in concert with the endorsement from Bernie Sanders, he could be in the game too. He seems to have stalled a bit though.

If it comes down to Graham and Levine it will be a contrast between the "Old Florida" in the northern part of the state where Graham has lived (though she is originally from the Miami area), or the Southern Florida Democrat strongholds, especially Broward County and its neighbors, where a lot of the primary voters are Jewish transplants from the East Coast, like Levine himself. One wildcard might be how the state's Latino voters, especially Puerto Ricans in Central Florida might vote and if new residents from the state, who were displaced by Hurricane Maria on their home island, might register in Florida in large numbers and play a role in the 2018 elections. The issue of dealing with natural disasters is certainly something any Florida Gubernatorial hopeful must be prepared for.

If I had to guess, I would say that Gwen Graham will win her party's primary, and being the only female contender on the ballot will be a large part of the reason why. For a variety of reasons, her opponents may split the opposition to her among themselves and a lot of older voters may recognize her name due to her father's long career.

A general election would not be a foregone conclusion by any means and Graham has yet to be truly tested in politics herself. She seems to be the Democrat best equipped to win swing votes in the state though for her party. Against Putnam, she might even be a slight underdog, but it looks like Republicans are going to follow Trump's lead and be all in on DeSantis.

Ron DeSantis is a credible candidate, despite his relative youth, with a strong biography. He might come across though as a bit too "slick" and his lapdog-like loyalty to Donald Trump can only take him so far with so many people. If he was focused on a general election instead of needing to come from behind in a primary, from the start, he might be in better shape against Graham, but early polls are already putting her ahead and the other Democrats tend to lead DeSantis in these polls as well. Ironically enough this race will probably be viewed both statewide and nationally, as the "undercard" to Bill Nelson vs. Rick Scott.

If DeSantis is nominated, as expected, for better or worse, he knows that Donald Trump will be coming back to Florida several times between now and the election and seems to enjoy doing rallies.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

4 D,  (1 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

11 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup), 11 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Delaware U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

90 Days Until Election Day

Delaware U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

It is pretty inconceivable that Democrat Tom Carper might be truly vulnerable this year as he seeks his fourth term in the U.S. Senate. After all, he is also the state's former Governor and at-large U.S. House Member. Going back to his election as State Treasurer, he has held statewide office continuously since 1977 and has never lost an election. There have not been a lot of polls, for such a low-radar election, but the one that has recently been released, by Gravis Marketing, showed some pretty surprising results, both in terms of a primary and general election for Carper. Thus, while this may eventually be confirmed as "Safe" for the Democrats, an abundance of caution has to put this as "Likely."

For decades, Carper has been respected in Delaware and viewed as the kind of politician who values the search for common ground over simply making speeches or headlines. Now, in his early 70s, he was not expected to have much of a race in 2018, especially as Delaware becomes more secure for Democrats. The past couple of years though have seen conservatives bring up an episode from Carper's past. During his 1982 run for Congress, a story in a New York newspaper had his then wife accuse him of hitting her and her children. At the time, Carper denied the story that he had been violent towards his wife or stepchildren. In a 1998 Delaware interview, Carper admitted having slapped his ex-wife once. With the advent of the "Me Too" Movement and discovery of various past misbehavior by prominent men, this story came to light again in late 2017. Carper admitted he slapped his then wife one time and regretted it, while insisting he was honest in his 1982 denials of abuse.

It is tough to say if this is something that people in Delaware are truly talking about, as Carper has been remarried for many years without much of a hint of scandal but for some reason, his poll numbers were surprisingly low in the late July Gravis survey.

First, he has to face an early September primary, and he is being challenged by Kerri Harris, an Air Force veteran and State Human Affairs Commissioner. A first time candidate, Harris, a biracial lesbian, has attracted some notice on the progressive left-wing "netroots", and people associated with the Bernie Sanders political network as many of them feel that Carper is too much of a moderate compromiser. Harris recently received the endorsement of and campaigned alongside New York Congressional nominee Alexandra Cortez-Ocasio, a self-described Democratic Socialist who shocked the political world by knocking off a long-time prominent incumbent in her state's Congressional primary. Almost nobody saw that result coming until the very end, and the New Yorker's political profile has skyrocketed. Could the same thing happen in Delaware? I would say that is unlikely but  the recent poll only had Carper at 51 percent among Democrats, with Harris at 19 percent and 30 percent undecided. This may turn out to be a cakewalk for the incumbent at the end, but if anything, he should have his eyes open to this challenge at the present.

The Republican primary is a low-key affair featuring three candidates, one of which is a California businessman who is running for the Senate in about a dozen states. The two leading contenders though are actual Delaware residents and both have embraced the Donald Trump Presidency and leadership of the Republican Party. Especially doing so is Rob Arlett, a Navy veteran and Sussex County Councilman who chaired the Trump campaign in his state. Attorney Gene Truono, is a former PayPay executive who points to his business experience and outsider status. The Gravis poll shows Arlett ahead 19-15 but with 60 percent undecided. Clearly, anything can happen in this primary. Like the situation between two little known Republican Senate candidates in Connecticut though, the Italian-American ballot name could help Truono.

The news from the Gravis poll though was that against these unknowns, in a Democrat state, Carper only received 47 percent support and had a lead in the single digits. (For what it's worth, Arlett did one point better than Truono.)

This could very well be an outlier. I would not be surprised at all, but voters in both parties just might be a bit fatigued with Carper after more than 40 years straight in statewide political office. There is a long tradition in Delaware, of longtime Senators, once thought of as unassailable losing reelection. That is how Carper came to his current office in 2000.

Nonetheless, the opponents for Carper are not exactly strong candidates. Republicans should perhaps regret that there could not recruit anybody stronger, or the fact that there really are not any strong Republican hopefuls left in the state. Most likely, if Carper prevails in his primary, as expected, the left-wing base in his party will still vote for him, with or without much enthusiasm and he will win comfortably. For now though, all there happens to be is one documented survey showing a lot of angst in Delaware.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 3 D (2 Safe, 1 Likely), 1 R (1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
26 D (23 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely), 43 R (42 holdovers, 1 Tossup)

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Connecticut U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

91 Days Until Election Day

Connecticut U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbment
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

Tonight, I have been watching some special election and primary results involving some very close races, but before the night is over, I need to write about a race where a primary will be held next Tuesday and one where the ultimate general election outcome will not be close.

Democrat Chris Murphy is seeking his second term in the U.S. Senate. He is one of the two dozen or so members of his party that get mentioned when discussing potential Presidential candidates for 2020. Murphy has certainly demonstrated political success in his state by defeating a longtime Republican incumbent for a House seat and then defeating a very wealthy, free-spending Republican opponent to capture a seat in the Senate. This has occurred though as his state has moved further and further to the left on the federal level. As would be expected, Murphy is very anti-Trump and pretty liberal across the board.

Two candidates will face off to oppose him in the fall election, though neither Republican is seen as anything close to "A list." There had been some talk that former Fox News anchor and Roger Ailes whistleblower Gretchen Carlson could be recruited into this contest, but that never occurred. Both of the GOP candidates in Connecticut have embraced Donald Trump and hope to capitalize in the primary for doing so.

The officially endorsed party candidate is Matthew Corey (not to be confused with Cory Matthews from the 90s sitcom "Boy Meets World.") A Navy veteran, who has worked as a window washer and bar owner, Corey has three times run for Congress in the heavily Democrat district centered on Hartford. His opponent is a computer sales executive and first time candidate named Dominic Rapini. Despite losing the party endorsement, he has been able to raise a good deal more money than Corey. It has been said to be a relatively mild campaign between the two men, with both focusing on attacking Murphy and not each other.

The official party endorsement may help Corey next week, but I actually have a feeling that in Connecticut, Rapini's Italian-sounding last name will be better for the ballot (and maybe for fans of Broccoli Rabe.) Whomever emerges will lose badly to Murphy in a race that will receive scant attention, both nationally and in the state.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 2 D (2 Safe), 1 R (1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
25 D (23 holdovers, 2 Safe), 43 R (42 holdovers, 1 Tossup)

Monday, August 06, 2018

Connecticut Governor- Race of the Day

92 Days Until Election Day

Connecticut Governor

Status: Democrat Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

A week from tomorrow, voters in the Nutmeg State will vote in the primary election and formally select candidates for Governor and separately for Lt. Governor. The two winners in each party will then run a combined effort in the general election. While there are two frontrunners, at least for the main job, it is not impossible to imagine an upset occurring.

In some ways, this election is similar to the one for Governor in Colorado. For one thing, major party candidates go through a system involving party conventions and endorsements before the primary, and also  because while the state leans Democrat, it is too early to declare that the party has any sort of serious edge. While Connecticut is indeed more Democrat-friendly than Colorado, making the task for Republicans hard from the start, it is also true that current Democrat Governor Dan Malloy is extremely unpopular and voters are ready for a change. Governors of both parties have been elected in states where one might not expect, and that could easily wind up happening in Connecticut this year, despite any sort of national headwind, if voters are indeed as upset about taxes and the business situation in the state as they seem to be.

Malloy survived a narrow reelection in 2014, despite poor job performance numbers. In his second term, he became even more disliked and while eligible to seek a third term, declined to do so, to the relief of many Democrats. He might have had a difficult time winning the primary. The association with Malloy was such a political burden that his Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman also decided to sit out what would have likely been her final chance to run for Governor. Some looked to Comptroller Kevin Lembo but he decided to seek reelection.

A slew of Democrats looked at entering the open race, including State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr,. thought to be the best hope of his family's political generation to achieve statewide office on his own accord. He did not run though. The party endorsement would eventually go to Ned Lamont, a wealhty liberal businessman and former Greenwich Selectman who first received political notice when he upset former Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman in a 2006 U.S. Senate primary. However, Lieberman ran as an Independent and was reelected anyway. In 2010, Lamont ran for Governor, but the party endorsement and the primary victory went to Malloy. Now, eight years later, with Malloy unpopular, Lamont was able to capitalize and is hoping he is finally on the path to statewide victory.

In Connecticut, candidates sometimes have an affiliation with a candidate for Lt. Governor before the primary and that is the case for Lamont and Susan Bysiewicz. A former Secretary of State, she has run into numerous obstacles in attempts to seek her party's nomination for either Governor, U.S. Senate, or Attorney General in recent cycles. She was planning to run for Governor once again, but once it was clear that the party regulars were behind Lamont, she endorsed him and agreed to run for the second spot on the ticket. Bysciewicz is expected to defeat Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a progressive activist= and former Congressional activist in next week's primary, even though the latter did better than expected at the party convention vote.

Lamont is facing a primary challenger himself in Joe Ganim, the Mayor of Connecticut's largest city of Bridgeport. Ganim first became Mayor in 1991 and withdrew from a race for Governor in 1994. In 2003 though, the Mayor was convicted of numerous federal charges of racketeering and other offenses. He resigned and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Ganim was released after about eight years and completing a drug treatment program. While unsuccessful in his efforts to regain his law license, Ganim did manage to get elected Mayor again in 2015. Now, he is running for Governor, and has some labor union support, as Ganim is seen as having a more blue-collar image than the preppy Lamont. Denied public campaign funds by virtue of being a felon, Ganim does not have the resources to truly compete in this primary Lamont should probably win by a solid margin, but there do not seem to be many polls on the contest. The race seems to be fairly divisive as the candidates demur on whether or not they could support the other if they lose.

The Republican ballot features a larger number of candidates, both for Governor and Lt. Governor and at least a bit more uncertainty as to what might happen next week. Several well-known Republicans declined to run including Tom Foley, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, who twice lost narrowly as the party's nominee against Malloy, as well as various past and current state legislators. A handful of other candidates for Governor, including those who had in the past run for Governor or other statewide offices were eliminated at the party convention.

On the third ballot, the party's nod went to Mark Boughton, the 54 year old Mayor of Danbury. He was previously the party's nominee for Lt. Governor in 2010 and in 2014 withdrew his candidacy for Governor in a race against Foley, his 2010 running-mate. Four other candidates will be on the Republican primary ballot with Boughton. In alphabetical order, they are Tim Herbst, the former First Selectman of Trumbull, and unsuccessful nominee for Treasurer in 2014, businessman Steve Obsitnik, a defeated nominee for Congress in 2012, and then businessmen and first time candidates Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman. As would be expected, the businessmen challengers of Boughton and pointing to their private sector experience as a better bet to getting the state back on the right fiscal track as opposed to "career politicians."

Boughton had been considered the frontrunner early on though. A scary moment happened though this past March when the candidate collapsed at a Republican Gubernatorial form. He was attended to by a then opponent for Governor who was also a physician, State Representative Prasad Srinivasan. (Did Boughton at least offer him the Lt. Governorship as a thank you gesture for perhaps saving his life via CPR?) With his political hopes on the line, Boughton released a lot of medical information upon being released from the hospital. He had been treated for a benign brain tumor the year before and claims the episode was because he went without taking his medication for a couple of days and was also dehydrated. His physicians have stated that Boughton is healthy enough to serve as Governor but some in the state may retain concerns.

The GOP endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor is State Senator Joe Markley, a conservative with ties to the Tea Party that many feel would not add much to the ticket of Boughton, who is seen as more of a moderate Republican, or his opponents. In recent cycles though, the party endorsed candidates for Lt. Governor have been defeated in the primary. Two women are also on the ballot including Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson. The candidate who is seen as potentially being he strongest political partner for whomever emerges as the nominee for Governor is New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart. At just 31 years old, she is considered a rising star in the party. A social moderate, Stewart jumped into the race for Governor in 2018, and had her own choice as running-mate, but as it was clear she did not have the statewide support for the top job, she switched to Lt. Governor and nominally endorsed Boughton. Her running-mate backed her move and withdrew himself.

So, in a week and a day, we can formalize whom the candidates are and if Republicans got the appropriate nominees to best have the chance of winning in a fairly blue state like Connecticut. They could only wish to be so lucky as to run against an ex-con like Ganim. Lamont is likely to be the person seen as the slight favorite throughout, and that is understandable, but it cannot be underestimated just how unpopular Governor Malloy is and how he could be a drag on his party more than Donald Trump might be on Republicans in the state. If the race really goes down to the wire, a spoiler role could be played by Independent candidate Oz Gabriel, a businessman who ran as a Republican for the office in 2010. His running-mate this year is Monte Frank, a former Democrat who was President of the state bar association and gun control activist.

When all is said and done, I would not be surprised if Connecticut is just too blue this year and if Lamont winds up winning by 10 points. At this vantage point though, the unpopularity of the Governor he would have been picked to succeed has to factor in as does the potential strength of a strong Republican ticket calling for change.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

3 D,  (1 Safe. 2 Tossup) 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

10 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe, 2 Tossup), 11 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Colorado Governor- Race of the Day

93 Days Until Election Day

Colorado Governor

Status: Democrat Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

The results of this year's Gubernatorial contest in Colorado will go a ways towards determining if the Centennial State is a true "purple" battleground or a state that continues to evolve towards a bluish future, especially on social issues, consistent with its reputation as being the first state in the Union to legalize weed.

Due to a variety of factors, and before such developments as candidate debates, I do not think this race can be characterized beyond the Tossup label. It is more likely than not though, that Democrats will win this office for the fourth consecutive time. Republicans have had high hopes of victory the past two cycles but have fallen short. If the contest is to ultimately wind up decided by a solid margin, it will probably be in favor of the Democrat.

Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper, who was a successful businessman before entering politics, is term-limited. Some believe he has his sights set on a Democrat Presidential bid, though some believe his profile in the party no longer fits the mood of it, and in fact, he has been talked about and denied any interest in a potential Independent national bid with his friend, outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich. Democrats will hope that Hickenlooper will consider a 2020 U.S. Senate run, as he leaves office with slightly elevated job approval numbers, from when he survived reelection with 49 percent of the vote in 2014.

Colorado is a state that has a somewhat complex series of caucuses and party conventions, held before the late June primary, designed to narrow the field to only the candidates with the strongest support. A whole lot of people made noise about running for the open Gubernatorial office this cycle but not everyone stayed the course. For Democrats, Congressman Ed Perlmutter was thought about as someone who would have a decent chance of winning the nomination, but when his Congressional colleague, the younger and very wealthy Jared Polis entered the contest, Perlmutter determined his path to a primary win was more difficult and jumped back into a race for his U.S. House seat. For Republicans, at least three major candidates were eliminated or withdrew before the primary. They were District Attorney George Brauchler, who decided his better option was to run for the open Attorney General position being vacated by Cynthia Coffman. She also entered the race for Governor, amid her divorce from Congressman Mike Coffman, but she fell well short of receiving enough votes to advance at the party assembly.

Many Republicans also breathed a sign of relief when former Congressman Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race. A surprise late-entrant, the polarizing and very right-wing Tancredo was candid when he said he saw no path of winning a general election. In 2010, the one time GOP Presidential candidate had finished second in the race for Governor, as the nominee of the Constitution Party, after the formal GOP nominee saw his candidacy implode.

For the Democrats, Polis, for his significant campaign spending was seen early on as the frontrunner but party activists at the convention expressed a serious preference for former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who was seeking to become Colorado's first female Governor. She had been narrowly turned out of office by the Republican frontrunner for Governor this cycle, during the strong GOP year of 2010. Polis, who would be the first openly gay person ever elected Governor, became a multi-millionaire by his mid 20s, by virtue of his founding the websites Bluemountain and ProFlowers. After leaving his businesses and getting heavily involved in educational issues in the state, Polis won a seat in Congress in 2008. While the party appreciated his fundraising skills, he was stymied in his efforts to advance in the Leadership.

Also competing for the nomination among Democrats were State Senator Mike Johnston, who chose to petition his way onto the primary ballot instead of competing in the convention process, and who was considered the most moderate of the candidates, as well as Donna Lynne, who was appointed to fill the vacant Lt. Governor position. 

Polls showed that the primary might be close between Polis and Kennedy, but the Congressman's resources allowed him to capture 44 percent of the vote and a 19 percent victory. Johnston was hot on Kennedy's heels for second place, while Lynne failed to get out of single digits.

The Republican field that remained for the primary featured four candidates. The frontrunner was State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a former investment banker. Though his family had long ties to Colorado, Stapleton grew up in tony Greenwich, Connecticut. His mother also happens to be the first cousin of President George H.W. Bush via the Walker Family for which the Colorado candidate was named. Stapleton's cousins, George W. and Jeb have been helpful to him in his efforts in statewide Republican politics, including this race for Governor. Unlike them though, Stapleton would go on to support the Presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

His ties to the Bush Family alone there were enough for some Republicans to hold him in suspicion .Greg Lopez, the former Mayor of Parker, received considerable conservative support at the party assembly meeting and clinched the second spot on the primary ballot, despite some embarrassing past instances in his personal life. Victor Mitchell, a wealthy real estate businessman, originally from the East Coast, who also served one term in the Colorado House, focused on his outsider status and compared himself to Donald Trump despite the fact that Michell did not vote for Trump for President. He called himself the "nice Donald Trump", and made note of his efforts to defeat both a Bush cousin and another relative of an establishment Republican. The fourth primary candidate was investment banker Doug Robinson who had to prevail in a challenge to keep him off the primary ballot for not having enough signatures. His uncle is Mitt Romney, who came to the state to raise money for him, despite the fact the two men also went a different way in November of 2016 on Trump.

Robinson would finish in last place in the primary though, ending any chance that he would be running in the same general election as his uncle from neighboring states. Lopez also did not perform very well among the primary electorate. The final result had Stapleton beating Mitchell 48 percent to 30 percent.

The general election was set and the first order of business was the candidates picking their running-mates for Lt. Governor. Polis selected former State Representative and non-profit executive  Dianne Primavera while Stapleton joined up with current State Representative Lang Sias, a pilot and Iraq War veteran.

Polling has been fairly scant thus far, but what has been released, including by the Polis campaign, show the Democrat with a lead, but not an overwhelming one. The fundamentals of this race, in the Presidential midterm year of 2018 should certainly favor Polis, but Stapleton has been the candidate who has won statewide twice before, albeit narrowly in strong GOP years. If there is a strong Democrat turnout, in this midterm, the path to victory for him may be impossible, but it remains to be seen if Democrats will turn out in very high numbers in any Colorado midterm. (Let's not forget many of them may simply be too stoned.)

In all seriousness, Stapleton is going to need some luck to prevail, but cannot be counted out. Polis, from Boulder, may possibly be seen as too liberal for the statewide electorate, and his personal style can come across as a bit aloof or arrogant. In the age of Trump, Stapleton's connections to the Bush Family could actually be seen as a good thing among moderate voters. If enough of those voters are angry enough at Trump himself though, Polis will win, and maybe with a bunch of votes to spare.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

2 D,  (1 Safe. 1 Tossup) 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

9 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe, 1 Tossup), 11 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)